Records that Sound Best on the Right Early Pressing

Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

xxx

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

(more…)

Judy Collins – Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins

More Judy Collins

xxxxx

  • This superb compilation boast a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is especially rich, warm and natural, with exceptional immediacy to Judy’s vocals and Tubey Magic for days
  • Tons of breath of life, superb production and mastering, and some of the best sounding echo ever recorded
  • Note that Artisan cut this record a whole helluva lot better than DCC – the so-called audiophile label – ever did
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lovingly programmed (it leads off with her excellent country-pop hit ‘Someday Soon,’ an Ian Tyson classic), this is Collins at her finest… This anthology brings the ‘best-of’ collection to a new art form.”

I remember being a bit taken aback by how much better my original Artisan pressing sounded compared to the supposedly superior DCC, pressed at high quality Heavy Vinyl at RTI to the most exacting standards possible.

What finally turned me completely against DCC were the awful Paul Simon solo albums they remastered.  Two were released, two I had as unreleased test pressings, and all of them were barely second rate compared to a good original pressing.

So much for believing in DCC. Since that time we have learned that placing your faith in any record label or cutting operation is a mistake. You have to play the records to know how they sound. Nothing else works, and nothing else can work. (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues

More Horace Silver

More Blue Note Albums

xxxxx

  • You’ll find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this wonderful Blue Note stereo pressing
  • Spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over every other copy we played
  • 4 stars: “Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along… [his] compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.”

If you know anything about Blue Note, you know that finding a copy that plays this quietly is rare. Add to that the excellent sound and music and you have yourself a real winner with this LP! (more…)

Bud Shank And the Sax Section – An Undiscovered Gem

More Bud Shank

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

xxx
xxx

  • This stellar copy of Bud Shank’s 1966 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – open, lively and dynamic throughout
  • Full, rich, and spacious with tons of Tubey Magic and, better yet, never dry, hard or transistory — true DEMO DISC QUALITY sound 
  • An absolutely amazing recording engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick – the sound of multiple saxes playing these lively arrangements is music to our ears
  • “… the album works, largely because of Bob Florence’s arrangements and the shrewd doubling of the baritone and bass sax parts, which give the charts heft at the bottom… The overall sound remains wonderfully reedy and flighty.”

Bruce Botnick sure knew what he was doing on this session. He succeeded brilliantly in capturing the unique sound of each of the saxes. The album is really more of a West Coast pop jazz record than it is a “real” jazz record. The arrangements are very tight, the songs are quite short — none exceed three and a half minutes — so there is not a lot of classic jazz saxophone improvisational blowing going on.

Spacious and transparent with plenty of analog Tubey Magic to go around, this is a really wonderful way to hear the music. The sax sound is excellent — rich and full, with none of the hard, edgy quality we heard on the less than stellar pressings. For richness and Tubey Magic — with no sacrifice in clarity or dynamics — these sides just could not be beat. (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze

More Seals and Crofts

More Folk Rock

xxxxx

  • This superb pressing of Summer Breeze (the first to hit the site in years!) boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout, and vinyl that plays as quiet as we can find it
  • With tons of Tubey Magical richness in the midrange – the kind that was still abundant on analog tape in 1972 – this is a wonderful sounding album of folk pop
  • It has taken us years to find the right stampers for this album, and now here they are on the Green Label original in all their glory
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Summer Breeze offered an unusually ambitious array of music within a soft rock context — most artists tried to avoid weighty subjects in such surroundings… the most highly regarded of all of Seals & Crofts’ albums.” (more…)

What Are Some Good General Rules for Acquiring Records with the Highest Quality Sound?

xxxxx

The Riverside pressings we’ve auditioned of both The Thelonious Monk Orchestra – At Town Hall and Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two – At The Blackhawk were just awful sounding. The OJC reissues from the ’80s, although better, were not overflowing with the rich, natural, relaxed sound we were looking for either.

Ah, but a few years back we happened to drop the needle on one of these good Milestone Two-Fers. Here was the sound we were looking for and had had so little luck in finding.

Which prompts the question that should be on the mind of every audiophile: What are the rules for collecting records with the best sound quality?

The answer, of course, is that there are no such rules and never will be.

There is only trial and error. Our full-time staff has been running trials — we call them shootouts and needle drops — for more than twenty years now, with far more errors than successes. Such is the nature of records. It may be a tautology to note that the average record has mediocre sound, but it nevertheless pays to keep that rather inconvenient fact in mind.

Even worse, if you make the mistake of pinning your hopes on a current reissue — and you unfortunately find yourself a member of that small minority of audiophiles with reasonably high standards and two working ears — your disappointment is almost guaranteed. (more…)

Lou Rawls – Live!

More Lou Rawls

xxxx

  • This superb 2-pack of Lou Rawls’ masterpiece offers a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Lou Rawls Live! is an amazing recording that really comes to life on this Hot Stamper pressing
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is superb – Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights, but really, there’s not a bad track here
  • If you could only have one Lou Rawls album, no question it would have to be this one – everything that’s good about the man’s music is fully on display
  • 4 stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better. (more…)

The Doors / The Soft Parade – A Tough Title to Find with Top Sound

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is going to be very hard to beat, and plays about as quietly as any early pressing can
  • The sound is incredibly powerful from start to finish – big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively – thanks Bruce Botnick, where would The Doors be without you?
  • Full of great songs: Touch Me, Runnin’ Blue, Wild Child, Wishful Sinful and the amazingly trippy Soft Parade extended suite (with Triple Plus sound no less)
  • “Much like a true “parade” of an English fugue, the song morphs from Morrison’s a capella sermon-like intro to a Baroque ballad to a show tune-like section to the long rock outro, the music masterfully following the flowing, stream of consciousness lyric.” Hell yeah!

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

NOTE: *A mark makes 8 soft ticks at the beginning of track 4, The Soft Parade.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. Some will have cut corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice enough cover for you.

This Doors pressing (either on the Elektra Gold or Big Red E Label, nothing else would qualify as a Hot Stamper) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, rich JIM MORRISON singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)

Winds In Hi-Fi – Grainger / Rogers / Milhaud / Strauss – Fennell

More Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Recordings

xxxxx

  • This famous TAS list LP finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • This pressing boasts superb sound on both sides – Mercury knows how to capture the bite of the brass
  • Fennell is a master of this sort of sweet and lyrical Wind Music
  • This spectacular Demo Disc recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the Mercury sound we love, and that is so hard to find

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

The credit must go to Fennel along with the brilliant engineering team at Mercury. I’ve been told that he was a stickler for making sure everyone was perfectly in tune and playing correctly within the ensemble. That’s exactly what you hear when you play a record like this — it’s practically sonic perfection.

Fennell made a number of band music recordings for Mercury. My favorite is British Band Classics Vol. 2, which was the first Mercury recording I ever heard. I went out and bought a copy of it immediately from my local Tower Records on Golden Import.

Years later when I heard the real thing, and original pressing, I realized the Golden Import was a pretty second rate reissue, fine for the $4.99 I might have paid but a big step down from the early pressings.

Also, if you ever see a clean copy of Vol. 1, only available in Mono, pick it up. If it’s cut right it too is out of this world. (more…)

Traffic – Self-Titled

xxxxx

  • An incredible sounding Island pink label pressing and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still incredibly open and spacious; there’s tons of bottom end weight too!
  • “As Mason’s simpler, more direct performances alternate with the more complex Winwood tunes, the album is well-balanced… their second consecutive Top Ten ranking in the U.K.; the album also reached the Top 20 in the U.S.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Island pink label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)